Machu Picchu! Everyone knows of it and millions of people flock to walk through it every year. Now, I am one of those who have achieved its lofty summits and am I ever glad that I persisted in finding out how to get myself there! I can now leave Cusco, Peru, happy and satisfied…even though there are still many Incan ruins unexplored by me.
Most people arrive here on an arranged tour, so they don´t have to fuss and fluster about how they are going to arrange to see this sight. They simply have to rise at early hours to make so many morning tour buses. Actually, they are surely getting their money´s worth by traveling this way, because I have seen, at ground zero, that it´s neither cheap nor efficient to go by yourself from Cusco. Machu Picchu is, necessarily, a highly-organized and controlled destination, which is not only around seventy-five miles from Cusco, but is both deep and high into a mountain-fastness; a place that receives up to 5000 visitors PER DAY, during the high season. Luckily, I visited in the off-season when the tourist load is only 1000 visitors per day.
When I returned from the Amazon region around Puerto Maldonado, I was so tired that the long walk to the train station to buy my Machu Picchu transportation tickets was out of the question. Finally, I took a taxi there, but the station was closed because it was Sunday. Never heard of that before, but I bounced off of my good intentions and went home to study my guidebook, which is not very helpful in outlining the steps that a lone traveler must take: Round-trip Backpacker´s train from the city would cost $96 and Vistadome roundtrip tickets would be $142. Then, I must locate some office somewhere in town for a $44 park entrance ticket, and I must hire a guide there for $20 for a two-hour tour of the ruins. With the cost of food and incidentals, I figured I would spend well over $200 to tackle the visit alone. I decided to stop in at one of the many tour operator´s little shoplets near the Plaza de Armas and book into their offered “Two days, one night” trips that leave daily. $140 later, and I was booked on a tour to start at 7:30 the next morning with my hostel pickup.
In spite of nine, switchbacking, hours of travel in each direction, it was money well spent. Our group of about twenty was made up of people from Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, Brazil, Peru, and me, the lone American. We were a jolly bunch who bonded easily. Travel through the Sacred Valley was in a medium-sized van over dizzying roads, many times overflowing with running waterfalls, and sometimes mudslides, though all recent ones had been cleared by the time we arrived. A nice lunch stop at St. Theresa came just before the junction where we hopped onto a train for the last half-hour. ´
Agua Caliente (Hot Water) is the tiny resort town, cum Aspen, which is the staging ground for the ascent to Machu Picchu. It´s so cute! At first impression, you think it´s just a train track flanked by hostels, hotels, cafes, and shops; but then turn the corner and you are on the roaring river boulevard. Go deeper “inland” about a block and you find yourself on a swanky uphill sidewalk leading to the beautiful hot springs. This is where I made the Aspen, Colorado, connection…and I ought to know, having lived there for nine years.
Lovely, pricey shops sell silver jewelry and fine alpaca sweaters; delicious-smelling sidewalk restaurants vie for your business, and four and five-star hotels promise a pampered night´s sleep. The world is beating a path to this door, and the door is wide open and welcoming, with new hotels rising in the tiny area between vertical mountainsides and a wildly tumbling river. This is one clean little town, too, and it is quiet because of the planning and care which goes into fulfilling the tourism demands upon this actual Seventh Wonder of the World.
We were parceled out to some very acceptable hostel lodgings and many of us decided to take a dip in the hot springs, though we hadn´t brought bathing suits. Towel and suit rental from little stands beside the steep path took care of that for only a few dollars. The springs themselves were laid out, very fancily, in smallish swimming pools filled with varying water temperatures. I chose the hottest and stayed there, loving the feel of clean sand between my toes at the bottom instead of the expected pool tile. Darkness came on and the chilly night air caused steam to rise from the water. Good conversation with some others from our group reminded me of my many soaks in the Glenwood Springs (Colorado) hot springs, reportedly the world´s largest.
Before dawn the next day, 4:30 a.m. in fact, we had to be dressed and out on the sidewalk to buy our bus ticket, $14 for a two-way, half-hour trip, to the top of the mountain where Machu Picchu awaits. Some hardy members walked up, leaving town at 4:00 a.m., for their own version of the Inca Trail. They had the choice of some straight-up stairs or the same clay road that all of our fancy motorcoaches took. Most hikers chose the roadway in spite of the fact that they swallowed our dust, because the stairs were killers. This, of course, is not the famous trail, or even it´s alternative, but it was physically-demanding and I´m sure glad I didn´t tackle it because Machu Picchu, itself, has lots of rough rock stairs and a great deal of elevation and huffing and puffing in the merest exploration of even parts of its vastness. However, even if you don´t actually get to poke about in every nook and cranny of the city, you can see so much of it from so many vantagepoints, that you really feel as if you have scrambled over the whole of it.
All the effort, expense and exhaustion is worth it! Machu Picchu is the most amazing, awe-inspiring place I can think of. Better than the Grand Canyon; better than the Taj Mahal…in its unique personal, spiritual quality and the mystery which still surrounds it. Maybe my next blog can describe what I saw there, but this one is too long already. Suffice it to say that Peru is doing a fantastic job of managing this site and preserving its wonder for the millions of us who are flocking here for this experience.
Someday, there is hope that Yale University will return the artifacts which were taken out, studied and preserved, at the time of discoverey by Hiram Bingham, and that would be a good thing. But, our guide speculated that the day might also come when the crush of tourists might have to be curtailed just to prevent destruction of the site. The mountain may have moved just a tiny fraction of an inch since this place was discovered in 1911. Footfalls and motor transportation on a slender stalk of a mountain can add up over time. So, the future may not have it so easy as we do to penetrate this particular mystery of our planet.
But, here´s the best thing! Those damned Spanish Conquistadors never got their hands on this place! They never tore down these fabulous stone constructions to build their own idea of Paradise, which we now see all around us in Cusco Town…and which haunt the Quechua-speaking people of today. A hostel-mate working in health care deep in a mountain village said that these people act like the Spanish Conquest occurred “yesterday,” instead of five hundred years ago and they are mighty wary of all our Western projects to change their way of life.
Peru is working hard to make sure that a well-meaning invasion of backpackers and asundry tourists doesn´t do the same thing to the one place that the Incans managed to keep hidden from those earlier conquering hordes. And Peru does this in a fine and gracious way. Machu Picchu still retains its quiet, somewhat aloof, dignity and we visitors come away speechless with the wonder of it all..
I ate lunch in Paddy Flaherty´s Irish Pub on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco today. This was framed on the wall and is certainly worth passing on. Along with Jack´s Cafe, Paddy´s is popular with Western visitors to the city and it bills itself as “The Highest Irish-Owned Pub On The Planet” at 10,739 ft.
This quote is from The Moon & Sixpence, by W. Somerset Maugham, 1919
“I have an idea that some men are born out of their place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here, at last, he finds rest.”
I´ll bet Paddy Flaherty knows the truth of this, because he has obviously set up a permanent home in Peru. Then, of course, he has populated his little bit of turf with all things Irish. It´s a cozy, wooden interior with all sorts of funny pictures on the wall and soccer, soccer, soccer on the telly. Mum´s recipes fill the menu and what delicious and generous servings they are, all for under $6.00. In such a way, Paddy has surely found a balance.
Raise your hands if that quote rings somewhat true for you, as well.
My silence over the past few days wasn`t because either of those Amazon inhabitants got hold of me. It was much more mundane. I had very little access to a computer and very little writing time, but I was in the Amazon Jungle.
Last Monday, I flew to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco for a visit with an old family friend who is now a priest in that frontier town on the Madre de Dios River, where many jungle tours originate. Chris Ross lived across the street from us when my children were growing up and he and my son are about the same age, so the boys became best friends and have stayed in touch over the years. Chris joined the Family of Jesus as a monk after completing university and then went on to study for the priesthood in Lima, Peru. He is now Father Issac. The small group of monks, priests, and nuns have moved to the hot, rusty, dusty town of Puerto Maldonado to serve the local population.
I heard my name called in the Puerto Maldonado airport, and there he was, hand extended through the lattice divider between passengers and those waiting to greet them. One of the other brothers had come along, and we piled my backpack into their van and drove to their modern communal house for a delicious lunch with the rest of the Family of Jesus members. All wear long khaki habits and sandals and they admit that these are not cool in the ninety degree heat, but nothing really is, is it?
My online-reserved Tambopata Hostel was a pleasant surprise, open and airy with a central garden and screened rooms, and a very welcoming and helpful hostess named Soyla, who understood some English. My private room with double bed covered with a mosquito net tent cost $10 per night and was very comfortable with only a table fan, as things do cool down at night to a pleasant 78 degrees.
I asked Soyla about arranging a jungle tour for Tuesday and Wednesday as Father Isaac was busy midweek, and she called her young friend, Johnny, who is a professional guide for other eco-lodges on the river. He came over to talk about possibilities. It´s not cheap and I had the choice of doing one very full day (which would have been extremely hard slogging now that I know what it entailed) or two days with a night spent in a private lodge run by a family living on Lake Sandoval. I decided on the longer version, even though the cost was $270, knowing that I probably would never be this near to the Amazon Basin again.
After a siesta, Father Issac returned in the evening to the hostel so that we could walk to the city center and have dinner together. It was very good to have some time to catch up over the years and we had some great sandwiches and then an ice cream cone to walk back to the hostel with. Johnny was back to make final arrangements and the two men met while we went over the plan to visit an animal rescue refuge as well as the large lake where I would see many species of wildlife – monkeys, macaws, giant otters, cayman (a small alligator), snakes, butterflies, and lots of birds. Father Isaac said goodnight and I was to see him later on Thursday when three of us, including Sister Mary Theresa, visited the local serpentarium.
I had no flashlight and needed to get cash from the ATM, so I hopped onto the back of Johnny´s motorbike and tooled through town as he drove about, picking up his baby son to ride, helmetless, on his lap as we did our shopping and errands. This town may be pretty rough around the edges with gold miners who come in from the river on the weekends, and all kinds of industrial and tourist endeavors using it as a jumping-off point, but it is full of friendly, natural, good-hearted people who don´t have it half-bad.
In the morning, Johnny and I set off on the river in a long, hired motorboat taxi. After an hour, we arrived at the Reserva Ecologica Taricaya, www.projects-abroad.net, for a look around and a climb to the tops of two large Kapok trees. Here volunteers come for varying lengths of time and some of them were building a new butterfly enclosure. Long strips of black plastic mesh were being handsewn together by some girls, while other volunteers were building the wooden framework. We walked past them into the jungle and soon were adopted by a pair of black and white, hen-like, wild birds who accompanied us just like a couple of pet dogs. They must have known we´d be awhile on the Kapok trees so they hung back at last while we climbed straight-up ladders to the very top of the first one. Then, it was a long walk across a wire suspension bridge joining the two trees. On the platform atop the second one, we could look out across the whole jungle canopy and see for many miles. This reminded me of my canopy tour in Costa Rica where we slung from tree to tree in harnesses.
On the way back to the riverside ecological station, our little doggy birds were waiting for us and picked up the walk they figured we were giving them, disappearing when we visited the rescued animals in their various cages. All were either recovering from injuries or were pets that had been abandoned or confiscated, and they would be gently returned to the wild when ready. Tending these fell into the duties of the volunteeers.
We ate lunch with the volunteers and staff at Taricaya and I was able to speak to a few of their very international group. Most seemed to be university age and the few I spoke to came from London, Reunion Island off Africa, and, I forget where else, but all over. I trucked out my maps of South America and went over my Spinal Analogy theory of the Andean Cordillera. None had thought of it before, but felt that it was a very original theory. After lunch, I spent some hammock time talking to Daniel Medina-Guzman, a staff botanist, who is working there for the year.
Then, it was off in our motorboat to the trail leading into the park containing Lake Sandoval. This is the rainy season and though the day was dry, the clay roadway was not. It was a landmine field of mush in great big puddles that might have a thin border to support the feet, but often did not. Luckily, we had high rubber knee boots that often tended to mire down in the quickmud or threatened to slip out sideways and plop us, facedown, in the chocolate cake mix. Five kilometers, or roughly three miles, of this slippin´and a-slidin´….luckily without a pratfall….got us to the Miranda Property and their rustic cabin guesthouses. The next day, we only had to struggle through three kilometers of this goop on the way home, as we could canoe part of the way on the return.
I was assigned a large bed alone in a duplex-sort of a cabin, the other side of which was occupied by a limey and an irish guy. They were scanning their flashlight upwards to the thatch roof which was populated by a few palm-sized, black and hairy Tarantula spiders. “No way I´m staying in here for the night!” said the limey from London. But, where was he to go? Indeed, inside the large thatched dining house, the owner showed us several other fine, furry black Tarantulas and said that they never bothered anybody and were not aggressive. All live together in peace. I was thinking that they would probably take care of the big roaches that I had spotted in the cabin and anyway, if they accidentally fell from the ceiling, we had all that mosquito net tenting to keep them off of us. Not a problem, and indeed, we never thought another thing about it and I saw no more roaches, either, though I shook my clothes well before repacking my small overnight pack.
Johnny paddled a long wooden boat canoe with his group of one (me) around the edges of the lake several times. In the afternoon, in the dark of the night, at 5 a.m., and early afternoon before we left. We bagged many wildlife sightings, among which was the most unusual Hueztsong bird, which is thought to be a throwback to the dinasaurs. It´s a bird, but shaped like a chicken, rusty brown-orange and black, with a spiked crown of feathers running along the top of its neck and head, and it can´t fly too far, but manages in its tree condominiums back and forth above its nest. It huffs air out of its lungs and is very noisy. Its babies look like reptiles at first. They taste terrible so are not hunted – by anybody or anything.
In our night run, we had the unusual fun of catching the Cayman eyes with our flashlight beam, so we looked for billiant orange orbs under the vegetation at water´s edge or moving silently across the lake. Johnny could even tell the age and size of the animal by seeing their illuminated eye. This blinds that one eye momentarily, but since there are a number of tourists in boats with flashlights each night, any Cayman born there probably thinks it´s a normal bit of jungle business to get flashes in the eyeball early in the evening.
Then, there were the pirañas, which we saw in small pods when they went into a feeding frenzy during their fishing. Little black backs rose above the water in the white froth they stirred up. They were all over the lake, but Johnny said that Hollywood has overblown their reputation. If you stuck your hand down in the water, you would not come up with only bones. If you went swimming while bleeding, you very likely would feel their nibbles but they wouldn´t eat your flesh away. So, later that afternoon, when he suggested that I might like to swim in Lake Sandoval, I didn´t even think of these fish, just that it would be my only Amazon opportunity to get into the water and so I did. It was lovely.
Just as I have used these two rather famous animals for their sensation value, so have others before me; when the reality is that, in the danger department, these two are often no-shows. Don´t believe everything you hear!
It has been four days since I last wrote a blog, and that´s an eternity in blogtime, so my apologies. My very valid excuse is that I haven´t had access to a good computer in awhile. The one at the very fine hostel ($25) here in Cuzco was so slow that all I could manage was a peek at my emails. I have now moved to a $15 hostel and their computer is broken, so I´m way across town and it´s already night. Cuzco feels very safe, so I don´t worry that I shall have to hoof it up some pretty steep cobblestone narrow streets to find my way home tonight. It´s worth it to bring you guys up to speed.
As the title of this blog implies, I would heartily recommend all of Peru, but especially this Sacred Valley portion, as a most wonderful place to come and spend your time. I´ve already been in this country for a month and might stay another two weeks, lingering twice as long as I did in Colombia or Ecuador. That will give me about a month to cover Bolivia, Chile and Argentina before flying home at the end of April, so I´ve blown my time budget, but I love this place! I find Peru more affordable than the other two, though they were very reasonable and mighty friendly and beautiful in their own right. I have found a deeply spiritual atmosphere here and many people who are on the mystical path in this land so steeped in mystical history.
Any day now, I´ll do some tours to really cover the waterfront, but I like to go through the museums and cathedrals at my own speed, not having to pay close attention to a guide´s university lecture. This weekend will surely find me tagging along in a group, snapping my pictures with the best of them because I simply must DO Cuzco and some surrounding Incan ruins in a way that I can truly comprehend them.
Monday, March 16th, I will be aboard the inaugural flight of Star Peru Airlines as it establishes its route between Cuzco and Puerto Maldonado at the edge of the Amazon Jungle. My primary reason for going is to have a visit with my son´s childhood friend who has grown up to become a priest in a small family of monks, The Family of Jesus, there in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, but this is also the only time I will see the Amazon on this whole trip, so it´s lucky planning.
Here, I´ve been faithfully polluting my body with a daily Malarone pill to prevent Malaria, and I haven´t yet been in mosquito regions. I´m even lugging a large mosquito net and all sorts of bug stuff. Will my five days there justify all that prevention? Probably not, but I´m going prepared anyway. I will leave my heavy cold weather clothing here in Cuzco; those that I have been wearing in so many layers these days and even as we speak.
Upon return from the jungle, I will again settle into my hostel in Cuzco, continue the chiropractic adjustments because I have found a crackerjack doctor, who charges $15 per appointment, and though I don´t have pain or symptoms, I did just have that pesky “shingles of the face” attack last week, and am making sure that I am well-adjusted before hoisting that heavy backpack for much more mileage. That week is when I will go to the Sacred Places in the vicinity of Cuzco, including Machu Picchu – but NOT the Inca Trail.
Every upwards street or hilllside, or volcano ascent, or even a stack of stairs, has counted as my own personal Inca Trail and I have overcome the need to be macho at Machu. I´ve heard the tales of the returning trekkers and all their little details about sleeping cold on the rocky ground for three nights. Heck! I sometimes shiver under all my blankets in a 60-degree room here. Nothing seems to be heated…but it´s summer here. So, don´t expect to read about me and the Trail. I´m taking the only train that I´ve yet heard of in this neck of the woods and then, I´ll stay in the delightful little town of Agua Caliente, and bask in their hot springs before returning to Cuzco. After awhile, it will be time to bus to Puno beside the famous Lake Titicaca and then go on into Bolivia.
So folks, consider coming to Peru….all on your own. Forget about the tour groups. you don´t need them. Get a round trip flight from wherever you are into Lima (you´d be surprised how cheap they can be if you shop around) and then fly on to Cuzco. You can make all the arrangements, right here in town, to see and do whatever your heart desires. You can make your hotel or hostel reservations online soooooo easily. Taxis are plentiful and cheap. If you like tour guides, you can hire them on the spot, but if you don´t they are not at all necessary. Prices are very good. You don´t need to know Spanish. This country, and particularly, this part of this country, is completely set up for tourism. They want and love you and they are such sweet and gentle people that they will not tout you to death to get you to buy their wares. Granted, some in the main areas do try pretty hard, but they are sweet too and not in the majority.
So, if you ever have contemplated an inner wish to set off independently and develop your traveling skills so that you don´t have to truck about with dozens of others and get up at gosh-awful hours in the morning, just to make your tour bus; then, this belly button of the world is just the place for you!
This posting is just to fill in until I have the time to do justice to my next report. I will leave Paz y Luz in Pisac, Peru, in the morning to travel to Cuzco , Macchu Pichu, and Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon region. But, I`m sleepy now, having taken part in an all-night Ayahuasca Ceremony in a lovely teepee-like Temple of Fortune as well as two Peruvian Dispacho Ceremonies in the same day.
There is much to tell, though I didn´t experience another Vision as I had the first time and reported in the last two blogs. Oh well, it was wonderful in other ways. And I will try to do justice to it here soon. Be assured, that I will be back in this blog, just as soon as I rest my tired bones/eyes , pack my backpack, and take off for parts unknown again…..plus, find an internet with a better keyboard. By then, more news will have occurred.
At least, what happens in spiritual places, like this one, have an extra zing to them, or hadn`t you noticed?
(Yesterday`s blog left you dangling, mid-vision, with the possibly alarming quote about my “wishing to leave Reality .” Don´t worry . That was definitely not a suicidal thought, but I really did sincerely mean it, at the same time. Still do and always will. Think about the context. The underlying truth of all existence is that Happiness is not to be found within Reality. I already knew this and have always looked forward to the day when I am invited to wing my way out of the Physical Realm and attain the Plane where True Happiness does exist. In the meantime, I am perfectly content to continue my examination of this fascinating world which surrounds me at this present moment. I believe that by the time you have read this second half of my Ayahuasca Vision, you will understand the context of my heartfelt wish with which I ended the previous entry.
As if to illustrate the potency of the spiritual vibrancy of Paz y Luz Healing Center (www.pazyluzperu.com) in Pisac, Peru, I have been invited to take part in a Sacred Dispacho and another Ayahuasca Ceremony this afternoon and tonight. Then, I will surely have another vision to describe here. My cup runneth over!)
THE SECRET OF REALITY – Part II
The Voice told me;
“You are being shown the Conditions of Reality.” All beings within Reality are trapped there. They cannot leave existence and they cannot find Happiness within Reality.”
Then, though it wasn´t spoken, I suddenly realized that the denizens of those States of Being, with their constantly seeking, swaying, supplicating arms, were begging for Happiness. This was their form of prayer, but rather than calling upon the Presence of God and desiring to draw close to their Creator, they were asking for things for themselves; for objects, for love, for success, health, a change of condition…for an ever-changing, or growing, list of THINGS, which they, at that moment, believed would supply them with happiness.
The atmosphere was dark, overcast, and sad because there was no Source of Happiness within their Realm of Reality, which is occupied by all created beings, and no amount of decoration or of constant wanting and wishing for more gifts and trinkets could fill that void. I realized that this was the human level, and not the microbial, though the same drama may also be playing out there, as well.
Again, I said “I do not wish to be here. I wish to leave the State of Reality.” Though temporarily content and resigned to my place in the universe, I again longed for the time when I will exit this trapped and rooted barnacle-bucket and float Upward to my Loving Voice, Who waits for me. Then, in think-talk, I spoke for the first time in this vision: “Where is the Happiness which I know to be possible within Reality?”
The scene was neutral for a moment, as the dimensions faded away. Then, as if through a tunnel of shade which was the inside of a small private aircraft, looking towards the rear, I saw the head and shoulders of two men in animated conversation. One was somewhat facing me, though turned three-quarters towards the airplane window. I could only see the back of the man who was listening. I would again recognize the face of the speaker who was looking upwards out of the window, because his face was bathed in the pearlescent glow of light streaming upon him. He was middle-aged, red-headed, with large eyes and was very happy in this moment of joyful, funny , inspired conversation which, obviously, took into account the beauty of Something beyond himself. As if to underline the point, the setting was an airplane, high above the earth; a clear clue to the meaning of my answer.
Then, the scene shifted and I was watching a line of five male singers, thirtyish and attractive, with long hair which was waving in sea -current pomadors above their heads as they sang from a stage. The blond one in the center held a black cordless microphone to his mouth and they were all moving in rythmn to the music which I could not hear. Pouring down upon them was the same peach-toned, pearlescent light that had shone into the airplane. They seemed to be completely aware of it, and were actually singing to it, or with it, as if it were an offstage Being of the Kleig Lights. These happy men were spreading a vigorous state of laughter and movement to their audience.
The next shift of scene could have been to a spot in that same nightclub. Young men and women circled a table, also bathed in the beautiful Upper Light, and they were all laughing and talking easily, responding to each other as well as to the Light which was streaming down upon them. There was obviously a direct, conscious, and completely inclusive link with the Big Guy Above, Who was cracking as many jokes as they were. Obviously, this was their habitual practice and nothing unusual for any of them. I was witnessing a night together in the utmost sense of the term. They were not separated from that Source above them, but they were also clearly not thinking of Him as a supply house and a granter-of-wishes for stuff, comfort, and things. Instead, they were filled with happiness and satisfaction and were completely caught up in the sheer fun and laughter of togetherness.
Then, as a concluding statement to my vision, a Voice came through, low on my opposite ear, at shoulder level, with the same pressurized push, but reddish in color now. (The color was not important…I suppose…and I only realized later that it wasn`t aqua as the first one had been.) This Voice said:
“If the Source of Happiness did exist within Reality, then you (the creatures) would never agree to die and come with Me when first I ask you!”
That was the end of the vision. I will explain the meaning of the last statement because I know exactly what He meant, having received many previous explanations about death. Because we have been granted free will, God always comes to us just prior to our intended death with the clear and straightforward question: “Are you willing to die and come with Me and leave this earthly Plane of Existence?” Though the human may not be open to consciously registering That Voice, it will hear, innerly, and will give one or the other answer immediately. Usually, the answer is “No!” The proper, and most beneficial answer is “Yes!” and death will then naturally follow, whether soon or late, but the bargain is sealed with that one loving question.
What the individual cannot know is that a Heavenly Body is prepared and waiting at the moment of the first asking and if the human agrees to go, they will quickly occupy their perfect form and life will continue for them in another place. However, a refusal may allow them to linger on in this lower plane, but the waiting body begins to lose its freshness, perhaps age somewhat, waiting for its intended occupant. Eventually, all lingerers will succumb to the inevitable and will, unavoidably, die; but they have both lost their choice and their fine body and will have to wear whatever is left of it in their next state of being. At last, they will become informed of what they had passed up by a stubborn clinging to that lower condition in spite of their state of suffering and their lack of true happiness in life which is our unavoidable Reality here.
Knowing that background, I could easily understand why this Earthly Plane is not made to be any more magnetically-binding than it already is.
(The previous two blogs are preface to this one: my continuing story of my first experience with the traditional Peruvian Healing Ceremony – Ayahuasca. The blog posting before this one describes the actual event of the ceremony and all details, without sharing the story of my resulting vision. You might want to read that one first, so that you understand the setting within which this occurred. I am staying in a wonderful Bed & Breakfast, Paz y Luz, in Pisac, Peru, only an hour away from Cuzco, Peru. Go to www.pazyluzperu.com to get a bit of an introduction to this beautiful place and to begin to plan for your own trip to this Spiritual Epicenter of the Planet. While I am here, for at least the next week, I shall be sending blog bulletins about the lovely life I am living at this moment. Here is my journal entry of Friday, March 6, 2009:)
I´m tucked into bed, swathed in blankets, writing in my journal and simultaneously reading Diane Dunn´s good book: Cusco – The Gateway To Inner Wisdom: A Journey To The Energetic Center Of The World.” Dianne is the founder of Paz y Luz whom I have not yet met, as she has just returned from a trip and needs the luxury of time to catch up on her return. Plus, I hear that she has developed a case of shingles of the eyes, just like I have at the moment (how strange is that?) and well I know the blow to the energy which that delivers. But, it`s better to meet her through the pages of her book first, so that I will already know her very well when we finally do have time to meet in person.
Right now, I need to catch up on journaling my Vision Quest experience of the Ayahuasca Ceremony, as well as to capture the wonderful meeting of the minds which Gray, Dana, and I had last night when I described my Spinal Column Analogy to them. Boy, was I zinging all last night with the spiritual energy that our brainstorming produced! Couldn`t fall asleep for hours. Being in this pregnant place is bringing so many new understandings to light and sleep was elusive because my Upper Ones were so excited about the positive input and reaction of these two beautiful and spiritual souls. I have had so few opportunities to share this material with anyone at all and here, in Paz y Luz, there is promise that I might find many such chances. I will share this ongoing discovery in future blogs as well, but I had better capture my vision down now before the topic moves on to other adventures.
THE SECRET OF REALITY
My vision began to flow in a familiar way with morphing faces. The eyes of the face were locked upon mine but the visage containing them changed fluidly. Different expressions and face shapes, even eye sizes, merged with each other while the mouths uttered silent words. This ever-changing series of beings was announcing, or explaining, something to me and it was not the least bit disturbing to me that I couldn`t hear a sound. Their eyelids fluttered with expression as the head moved in the natural delivery of this preface to my experience-to-come. I always think of this almost-theatrical delivery as a Greek Chorus in its intention and my curiosity is riveted upon the interesting features of each changing face. I could witness this for hours, if only it would last that long. But, fifteen or twenty faces seems to exhaust the rank and then things fade to blank. My night experiences, or dreams, often begin this way and I have no reason to believe that the faces are the same ones each time.
Next, during this Ayahuasca Ceremony, I found myself viewing a melding series of strange, shoebox-shaped, living spaces. At first, I concentrated on their exterior decoration. I saw emeralds stuck into a wall like rocks in a decorative pattern, a mosaic of pebbles, which just happened to be jewels. Then, the wall became more colorful with many brightly-colored jewels and precious stones of a wide variety of colors.
By this time, I was moving along, sliding by, the walls, just as I have recently been doing in my actual travels through the narrow streets of many South American cities. I often study the walls, windows, doors, signs, textures and they all have distinct personalities that add up to my impression of a place. After the jeweled enclosures, I came to one of the rectangular block facades which had colorful plastic alphabet letters glued on in crazy, meaningless patterns; and then one that was so gaudy with riotous glittery color that I thought of a rinky-tink carnaval.
Oddly though, this set of living spaces, which I somehow knew were dimensions of a wide variety of created life, of living beings, was not pleasing and beautiful, in spite of its obvious potential to be just that. It appeared lifeless and dull, as if the atmosphere was overcast. It all seemed sad and very quiet.
Next, I found myself floating towards a much more attractive structure and I was so involved in studying the artistry of its construction that I didn`t take note of the fact that my soaring towards it felt as if I was again dangling from the paraglider which I had ridden just last week in Miraflores, Lima. This wall was like the cliffside of a very high ceramic artpiece of a building glazed in lovely pastel. Little barnacle-shaped balconies erupted all along the sides of this structure, like those cups on the side of pottery strawberry planter urns, which each hold one small plant. The ceramic cups were baby blue, and from each one, waved a polyp-like resident whose streamer “hands” floated above what must have been its head. If I were a scuba diver exploring a reef, these would be the sea urchins or the inhabitants of shell creatures spending their time floating their little fans in the great ocean current. I knew that these little beings were rooted firmly in their bowls.
The thought occurred to me (mistakenly, as it turned out) that these creatures were reaching out to find God and were surely supplicating to a Greater Being. I also compared them to people who might stick their bodies out of a train window and wave vigorously in the air, but who were firmly planted inside of the moving train with no intention or practical reason to follow their hands in a complete departure from the train.
Because I am no stranger to significant visions, I have trained myself to participate by keeping a running, memorized journal entry going on inside of my head. Not only to discover a bit of logic or a message or purpose, but to keep up with the sequence for later recording.
I knew that these were dimensions of living. Was I now being shown the human level in these hopeful little waving polyps? That was thrown into doubt when I entered a scene populated only by animals – large jungle cats, wild cats – which I first thought were lions or tigers because they were orange or tawny golden. They sat looking me directly in the eye, full-face, as if their message was very significant. The leader almost seemed to look oddly like Garfield with black stripes on orange and slightly bugged eyes, and I dismissed this comparison as silly and not worthy of the serious demeanor of this battery of staring cats.
(Imagine my surprise, when I saw that very cat`s face (sort of Garfield, sort of Thai Temple) mounted on the side of the Pisac Government building on the square the next day??? I had not seen it before this ceremony.)
I now asked myself if perhaps I had been in the lower levels previously and the polyp people might represent bacteria or some other minute inhabitants of creation. Was I now entering the animal kingdom and would I be shown the human level next?
These golden cats proved to be pumas, an animal sacred here in Peru, and surely sacred to our shaman. Were they telling me something with their many faces sending penetrating stares directly to my eyes? Was this another Greek Chorus prefacing my next vision? My mind also wondered about the many rectangular, over-decorated, individualistic houses. They reminded me of the mud brick block towns in Peru which I have passed so often on the bus. No matter how gaudy or how plain, there was an atmosphere of sadness about them, just as those actual mud towns on the garbage dumps had seemed to feel.
My mind began to repeat: “I no longer wish to be here!” as I floated beside them; as it has often done in many anonymous towns and countries I have passed through on my many journeys. At some point, I will inevitably form my intention to move on; and that becomes the energy which pushes me away and forward to the next experience of life, or in this case, to a look at another dimension. One wall was covered with shiny black bugle beads and one wiggly red strip, as if it was the entrance to a sad nightclub. You know how lonely those look in the bright light of day.
Now, I heard the Voice, or really a turquoise voice stream, which entered my consciousness below my left ear at shoulder level. This was new to me! Never have my Voices approached from that point, but always higher within my head. Plus, the sound quality was different. Though clear and easy to understand, it was more “pressurized” than the natural, relaxed sound of my usual Companions. As if it were issuing like steam…not a hissing sound, but a powerful, energy-packed sound. It said:
“You are being shown the Conditions of Reality. All beings within Reality are trapped there. They cannot leave existence, and they cannot find Happiness within Reality.”
Then, as I overflew these dimensions of living, I began to repeat not only “I no longer wish to be here!” but an added, heartfelt statement: “I no longer wish to be within Reality.”
End of Part I. This is so long, that I will continue with the second half tomorrow. Tune in later.
(There are several new posts in a row, so be sure to read down until you are caught up.)
Time flies here. Everyone came to breakfast late and we sleepily began to share the details our our last night´s experience at the Ayahuasca (Aya-wasca) Ceremony. Everyone who had done this before said that the herbal ayahuasca drink was milder than usual and most didn´t get any reaction until their second drink. However, I had a very satisfactory vision quest on my first amount. Let me describe the entire evening:
Six of us left Paz y Luz at 6:30 p.m. to walk along the dirt road beside the riverbank into the small town of Pisac. It´s at least a mile, maybe more. With me were my friend, Dana, whom I had met in Peru Home Hostel in Lima, and who had told me about the Ayahuasca ceremony and Paz y Luz Center; Ramya, a French woman from Canada, who is an Osho devotee; Ashera, here to lead an institute in traditional healing with a group arriving soon from America; Shannon, a 22-year-old from North Carolina, just finishing her exploration of South America. Leading us to the shaman´s house was Gray Jeffery, resident manager of Paz y Luz, from California, who in mid-life, left behind his five-star business school training and a Silicon Valley profession, to become a healer, shaman and medicine man. He was to be the co-leader of our ceremony.
It was almost dark when we reached the steep and craggy incline to Eduardo´s simple house across the river. Part of this challenging route had cement molded stairsteps, or merely stones, but some places were covered with a slippery skree and a very difficult footing. The thought again occurred to me that I was now doing all the Inca Trail that I could stand (thank you very much) and excusing myself from even thinking of four day´s worth of this uphill punishment. It was exactly the conclusion that I had come to while climbing Cotopaxi Volcano near Quito.
Puffing at the top, we stood on the shaman´s cement slab front porch and were greeted by his wife and two daughters. Our ceremony was to take place in their large one-room downstairs main room, one end of which was covered with many colorful woven Peruvian rugs and carpets. The sparse furniture had been pushed to the other end of the room. Plenty of wonderful heavy alpaca blankets were folded around the edges of the room – one for each of us to sit upon, and one to use as a backrest against the wall. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling powered by the generator chugging just beside the front door within the same shed which was to be used as our bathroom. “Just use the dirt floor and toss the paper there also.”
The Ayahuascero, Eduardo, the shaman trained to guide the ceremony, greeted each of us with warm and genuine hugs of welcome and invited us to pick a seat on either side of the room while he and Gray set up their materials, a candle, a drum and a gong, along the wall at the end. We got cozy on our folded blankets, wrapping ourselves in our sleeping bags or shawls brought for warmth, in case we became cold as the night wore on in the unheated house. Water bottles were handy beside us although we wouldn´t drink from them until after the ceremony. Our shoes had been left over by the table and we had to remember where they were in case we wanted to excuse ourselves to use the shed.
For the first half-hour or so, we simply settled in, talking companionably and casually being informed about the ceremony and the large handful of coca leaves set upon a mat before each of us, as well as our little white bucket which we must keep handy in case of nausea. Ayahuasca is a cleansing as well as a vision quest ceremony and it is common, nay, very, very desirable for nausea and vomiting to occur as the toxins become expelled from the body. Having gone through a year of medically-supervised toxic cleansing at home, in preparation for this trip, I could well appreciate the value of a well-timed heave.
Our stomachs were as empty as possible, though I had taken a bowl of quinoa soup and flat bread to control the shakes, but my body was as prepared as well as possible for the best that this ceremony had to offer. The cleansing aspects, though surely needed in the midst if my present shingles attack, was secondary to the desire to return to the familiar trance state and out-of-body flying that had characterized my spiritual awakening fourteen years ago. That phase has now quieted to occur simply as a regular part of dreaming, and I was eager to see if the herbs of the ayahuasca could return that precious state to me on an at-will basis. Though at-will is not really the case, because this was a rare opportunity not likely to return again. I seem to be immune to hypnosis, so I wasn´t even sure that there would be any result. This chance didn´t come cheap, as each of the five of us women paid $70 for the special ceremony.
Eduardo was dressed in a large pullover caftan and wore several necklaces, one of which might have been puma teeth. On his head was a red Peruvian Andean woven hat with peak and ear flaps that tie under the chin. He looked quite regal, actually, and very appropriate for his role. Though he spoke Spanish and Quechua, he was very approachable and interested and outgoing to all of us. Gray served as translator as well as assistant, explaining each step of the way.
First, we were shown what to do with our coca leaves. We were to select three, a large, medium and small, into little piles and then to circulate around to everyone, giving sets to each in the room, along with a blessing and response in Quechua, which we naturally stumbled over but managed an approximation. When we received a set, we folded it and tucked it into our cheek. This gifting of the sacred leaf bonded our little group and reminded me of the common church practice of circulating with a hug or a handshake, murmuring greetings. Soon, our cheeks bulged with leaf and we naturally began to chew and swallow, spitting the pulp into our bucket. This caused a temporary numbness in the mouth and prepared our system for the herbal concoction that we were about to receive.
The ayahuasca juice, the color of apricot, was contained in a large one-litre plastic bottle. It fizzed a bit when Eduardo opened it after shaking. One by one, each of us came before him and accepted the small, 5 oz. tumbler of the potent drink. We needed to chug-a-lug it because the taste was rather bitter, but not all that bad. Then, we returned to our spot against the wall for more companionable quiet conversation while waiting for the medicine to kick in. Soon, the generator powering the lightbulb was turned off and a single candle lighted. After a few moments, I began to wonder if this would work. Nothing seemed to be happening inside of me; certainly not the buzz that I would have felt by then if that had been a tumbler of wine consumed so rapidly. Eduardo began to drum and sing a chant to Ayahuasca, about whom I am not at all informed and wasn´t even including in my thoughts as I observed what was not going on inside of my head.
Soon, the candle was pinched out and we sat with eyes closed concentrating innerly, while the shaman chanted and softly played the drum, a really beautiful sound which began to pull and move my mind. Later, Gray played a large gong in a very musical fashion, reverberating tones in ever-expanding waves, not just gong-gong-gong, such as the type to silence a crowd or announce the arrival of a king.
Without even noticing the interface, because it was as natural as the beginning of a dream, my trance began. I didn´t soar about, as I was hoping to do, but I was shown scenes which came to me, one by one. Once I was observing a scene, I could enter it slightly by sort of moving past the facade for a closer look, but mostly, it was like being in a movie theater with a close up screen. This happens a great deal in my dreams so the process was completely familiar. At the same time, I was totally present and aware of myself in the room; of the presence and actions of the others, as used to be true during my natural trances.
Though you are completely cognizant, you choose to remain focused innerly, but you are also using a very alert and businesslike side of your mind to catalogue and remember the sequence of what is happening, as well as a limited amount of reasoning process to discover, or work out, the meaning of what you are seeing. “Limited” because too much of that can interfere with what is being shown to you. You don´t want that logical self to get in the way. I am, by now, expert at this, as I have needed to practice this balance during most of my nights, as dreams and conversations come and go and I cannot/will not get up to write them down. I must mentally store them until my morning journaling session with that first cup of coffee. At least, that´s my home routine; shot to pieces out here on the road.
Anyway, I had a great Vision Quest story, which had a beginning, a middle, and an end. I saw it clearly and now remember totally each picture shown me. Then, when the episode concluded, my trance ended, just like that, though I still sat in a relaxed, dreamy state of mind. I no longer felt the effect of the herb. However, there is an unpleasant side-effect of the toxic-expelling process and several times, I reached for my bucket and brought up some dark liquid from way down deep. That momentary wretching is not much fun, but is over quickly and is considered a most fortunate and beneficial side of the healing ceremony and proof that it is working optimally. I do believe that my shingles are disappearing as a result.
As the chanting continued during my relaxed aftermath state, I felt my head being manipulated on the limp stalk of my neck, gently rolling from side to side, and around about in time to the drumming and the chant. I allowed it to happen but did not initiate this. Perhaps, it was something the shaman was doing remotely, but it was a good, benevolent, mild and fun thing to feel happening.
At no time, was there any comparison with drunkenness. I can´t say how this compares with drug use, having no experience, but I do know that I was always in control and if I had chosen to step out of the process, I could easily have done so. In fact, I did at one time get up, locate my shoes in the dark and step out to the generator room. Perfectly easy to accomplish without even the benefit of a flashlight. Then, it was easy to return to the process again.
It seemed very late at night by the time the herb wore off and I soon became restless to leave and tuck into my warm and very comfortable bed, so long overdue. My butt was numb; I was chilly and very, very sleepy. But, the easygoing ceremony wasn´t only for me and most of the others, as I learned later, were just beginning their exploration of consciousness with the second dose. As I also learned later, they were feeling very uncomfortable with nausea, gas, stomach bloating, dry heaving and various aches and pains much greater than mine. But, we all weathered these side effects stoically, knowing that something was occurring within, both spiritually and physically.
At last, we gathered our belongings just as a misty rain came along with a little bit of wind. We had a long, dark walk home and it would be good to beat the rain, especially in descending the perilous stairs, rocks and mudslide area leaving the shaman´s home. Two little flashlights and lots of extended hands got us safely down and herded through a gauntlet of junkyard dogs to the straight path through the sleeping town and down our rural road, hoping to avoid a number of cow, dog, and pig patties which waited, like landmines, for our blind step. It was 12:30 in the morning.
(Stay tuned. Tomorrow I will describe my wonderful gift of a Vision.)
I keep hearing it, here in the Cuzco, Peru area, that among those in the know about these things, Peru has now been recognized as the epicenter of the spiritual vibrations of the planet. The energy has shifted in the New Millennium, they say, and people seeking wisdom are flocking into this beautiful Andean city and its environs.
I spent one night in Cuzco and then took a taxi for an hour to Pisac, the Artesanal Cultural Center of Peru, known for its wonderful Sunday bazaar, but also for its quiet and peaceful mountain serenity. Truly, it is glorious here, surrounded by high green mountains and criss-crossed by fast-flowing rivers. This is a small town in a rural surrounding but it is quickly being converted to a spiritual epicenter waiting to receive the many seekers who will soon begin to flock to Peru, much as they have flocked for years to India, now consulting shamans instead of gurus.
Paz y Luz (Peace & Light) Spiritual Healing Center and Bed & Breakfast is about four years old and is still growing into a lovely, hollyhock-adorned complex; modern, yet built with traditional Peruvian materials and symbols. A restaurant, a circular glass yoga and workshop session room, and a small hotel with more guest rooms are now under construction next to the labyrinth and a soon-to-be-erected Sweat Lodge. Next door, the neighbor´s cornfield sways in the breeze ripening it´s golden harvest.
Remember Dana and Annabelle, of our temporary Miraflores Fishrambrownbanner family? Dana, being a trained Yoga teacher knew of this lovely place and had taken part here earlier in a Peruvian medicine Ayahuasca ceremony. I became immediately interested in coming to experience some of this traditional wisdom myself. Plus, with my “shingles” again hitting my face and taking away my energy, I figured that a healing center was just the place to recover.
I was thrilled to feel the energy when I arrived in Pisac and then at Paz y Luz. I had been somewhat disappointed with what I picked up, vibrationally, in the city of Cuzco, but also realized that I might not be in the best of shape to appreciate that Navel (bellybutton) of the world. I´ll give it another chance next week when I return to go to Macchu Pichu and then to fly to Puerto Maldonado.
Signing in for a cost of about $27 a day at the weekly rate (including breakfast) I met several other powerful women who had come for much the same reason….spiritual exploration. There also was Dana and Annabelle arriving independently from a look at the same little towns I´d just passed through. Soon, a woman almost my age, Britt Paulsen (69) of Norway arrived just to have a look around, as she knew Diane Dunne, founder of Paz y Luz, whom you will soon hear about from me as soon as I meet her. That´s another story. Britt and I walked into town as I heard her story as a senior citizen who loves to travel freely alone throughout the world. She has traveled this way for years and also knows the world to be a safe and friendly place. We spoke about the Intergalactic Friend syndrome as she makes deep and abiding friendships instantly everywhere she goes and she was glad to get a name for them. Just that morning, as she stepped off the bus in Pisac, she had looked into the eyes of a 28-year-old young man who insisted upon bringing her home to meet his aunt. Though neither spoke the others´language, worlds of information passed between them and they were to meet again that afternoon for a musical ceremony. The aunt is psychic, though she doesn´t let the townspeople know, and she spontaneously offered to give Britt a Limpiar or a Cleansing. At first, Britt though that she must need a bath, but soon realized that it was a psychic cleansing that she was being offered.
We went to lunch before this second appointment and had someone take our picture as fellow IGFs ourselves. We look enough alike to be sisters. That was a lovely way to begin my first full day here. I fasted, drinking only water, to prepare for the evening´s ayahuasca ceremony that had been arranged at our request.
On my Around The World trip in 2005-2006, I stayed for ten days at the Osho Meditation Resort in Pune, India. Now, I am here in this lovely spot to immerse myself in the spiritual vibrations of this ancient land. They are already having their positive effect.
The last you heard of me, I was rushing off a posting in the busy little internet of the Lima bus station just before mine departed for Paracas, Peru. That was about four days ago and I`ve been flashing from pillar to post with no chance to blog due to a serious lack of internet availabilities. Now, I`m pretty sleepy, but I`ll do the best I can to check in with you guys.
For a long time, I have been traveling along the Peruvian coastline, or beside the spinal column of the Andes Mountains. It`s warm down there, but not tropical. It`s desert beach which keeps getting warmer and drier the farther south you go. Paracas is a small beach community with the distinction of having two interesting Reserves. One is the Ballestras Isles, which are probably like a condensed Galapagos. I took a motorboat tour there in the morning and we motored around the edges of the large rocks which are simply the eroded tops of submerged mountains. These are filled with Boobys, and Cormorants, Turkey Vultures, Pelicans, South American Gulls and lots more. Barking groups of South American Sea Lions share rock space with various sorts of penguins. It`s just alive with marine wildlife and sea birds.
In the afternoon, I toured the Paracas National Reserve, which is a large desert beach area with its own interesting ecosystem. Later, I headed four hours down the coast for Nazca to see the mysterious desert art which can only be perceived from the air. The town itself is not distinguished at all and I thought of it as the Agra of Peru, since the touts were a wee bit aggressive in selling tours and flights over the Lines. By this time, shingles has claimed my face again and it`s red, swollen and itchy, so I treated myself to a luxury hotel with a beautiful swimming pool to get some rest and recreation. It was a good value at $85.
The next day, I took a forty-minute Cessna small plane ride over the Nazca Lines for $90 and was able to photograph each one. The other couple in our plane was from Tampa, Florida, of all things….just half an hour away from my home. How strange!
Sorry to say, I didn`t conclusively crack the mystery of what the Nazca Lines are, but here`s what I think: They serve as a great big Ingredients Label for our planet for any passing curiosity seekers from Mars or Venus. As if to say: “On this planet live species represented by these pictures – whales, monkeys, dogs, humans, birds, plants, etc. and here are their math tools (triangles, right angles, straight lines, etc.)” Now, wouldn`t it have been lovely if a few ancient Martians or Venusians had thought to scratch a message on their planets for our probes to record and send back to us?
At least, that`s an idea that Maria Reiche didn`t come up with. She was a German scientist who devoted her life to figuring these things out. Her conclusion was astronomical. That they coincided with constellations in the sky. At best, all the theories have proven to be only thirty percent accurate. Who will give me thirty percent for mine?
Anyway, I left Nazca last night at 8 p.m. on another luxury bus cama and had a very comfortable trip across the twisting road into the Andes. Thereby climbing laboriously again to the top of the Cordillera Spinal Column I`m theoretically examining for my fanciful travel study. I even thought of the raging river beside the highway as being the nerve carrying life and health deep into the rest of the body.
The bus shifted so much on the switchbacks that I now feel like a sailor does after getting off the sea. I`m still feeling the motion. We arrived in Cuzco at 12:15 p.m. and I chose a hostel out of the Lonely Planet. Not always a good thing to do, as this one is musty smelling and chilly. I`ll check out tomorrow. It`s been raining a lot here, but the sun did shine this afternoon. Now I have to figure out my next step. Machu Picchu – yes. Inca Trail – no! I wanted to do it just to see if I could, but not in the rain and the cold. It`ll be the choo-choo to that mountaintop for me.